Costco Online vs. In-Store Price Comparison: Is Shopping at Costco.com Worth It?

Over the past few years, there’s been a big shift in how we shop for our groceries–and I don’t know about you, but grocery delivery services and curbside pickup options have been life-changing for me.

But is shopping online at Costco worth it?

And is Instacart’s same-day delivery cheaper than Costco’s 2-day delivery?

Shopping online can save you time and energy, but it usually comes at a cost. Today, we’re going to explore the price differences between Costco’s online and in-store prices to uncover whether it’s worth it to shop online at Costco. com–and if Instacart is a better or worse option.

In addition to comparing the price difference between shopping online at Costco.com for delivery and walking into a Costco warehouse, we’ll also explore how these two shopping experiences differ and where to shop when leaving the house just isn’t an option.

Comparison Methodology: How We Compared Costco In-Store vs. Online Prices and Shopping Experiences

To create an accurate price comparison between Costco’s online and in-store offerings, I headed to my local Costco. I also filled my online cart at Costco.com with the same items to see if the rumors were true: is Costco.com more expensive than shopping at Costco in person?

Since prices vary per region and time, it’s important to know that this price comparison was conducted in April 2022 at Costco Wholesale in Alhambra, California. You should also know that my delivery address was just 5 miles away from this particular Costco.

These specifics matter because Costco and Instacart could increase delivery charges if you live further away from Costco.

With that said, ordering online from Costco.com could save me a 15-20 minute drive to and from Costco. Add on the time it takes to shop, and online ordering could give me back an hour or more of my free time. So, let’s find out if it’s worth it.

Costco Online vs. In-Store Price Comparison Summary

You’ll find lots of value throughout this whole article, but if you want to get right to the point, check out the summary that follows this chart.

ItemOnline PriceIn-Store PriceSavings
Kirkland Signature Organic Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Beverage$9.99$7.89$2.10 (21.02%)
Tide Advanced Power Ultra Concentrated Liquid Laundry Detergent with Oxi, Original, 81 loads, 150 fl oz$23.99$20.99$3.00 (12.51%)
Starbucks Pike Place Medium Roast K-Cup, 72-count$35.99$32.99$3.00 (8.34%)
Fabuloso Multi-Purpose Cleaner, Lavender, 210 fl oz$9.89$7.99$1.90 (19.21%)
Kirkland Signature Create-a-Size Premium Paper Towels, 2-Ply, 160 Sheets, 12-count$21.99$17.99$4.00 (18.19%)
Wheat Thins 100% Whole Grain Crackers, Original, 40 oz$9.99$7.99$2.00 (20.02%)
Barkbone Variety Nylon Chew Toys, 3-count$16.59$9.79$6.80 (40.99%)
General Mills Lucky Charms, 23 oz, 2-count$9.39$6.99$2.40 (25.56%)
Kirkland Signature Adult Multivitamin, 320 Gummies$16.99$10.99$6.00 (35.31%)
Frontline Plus Flea and Tick Dog Treatment 23-44 lb, 7+1 Doses$84.99$77.99$7.00 (8.24%)
Total Cart Price$239.80$201.60$38.2 (15.93%)

It was no surprise to discover that shopping in-store at Costco is significantly cheaper than shopping online at Costco. com–but the gap in prices was pretty astonishing.

Most delivery services charge “shipping and handling” or “delivery” fees–but there are plenty of hidden charges you can’t see. And that’s true for Costo.com.

Costco.com tacks on additional charges that ranged from 8% to 40% in our price comparison. Those hidden fees added up to a $38 difference, and every item on Costco.com was more expensive than its in-store counterpart.

Even though we spent enough money at Costco.com to waive delivery fees, we ended up paying nearly $40 more just to use their online shopping service. And while some items qualified for free 2-day delivery, other items did not.

Costco Online vs. In-Store Price Comparison Breakdown

In the summary above, we compared the savings between shopping in-store at your local Costco warehouse or choosing delivery by shopping online at Costco.com.

Next, we break down those same cost differences–and explore if Instacart is a cheaper delivery option for shopping online at Costco.

1. Kirkland Signature Organic Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Beverage

In-Store Price: $7.89

Online Price: $9.99

Instacart Price: $9.82

Although you’d save the most money shopping in-store at Costco, Instacart could save you a few cents–and get you faster delivery.

2. Tide Advanced Power Ultra Concentrated Liquid Laundry Detergent with Oxi

In-Store Price: $20.99

Online Price: $23.99

Instacart Price: $23.11 (List Price: $26.11; Discount: $3 off)

Instacart offered us a $3 discount on the Tide liquid laundry detergent, which made its price cheaper than the one we found on Costco.com.

3. Starbucks Pike Place Medium Roast K-Cup

In-Store Price: $32.99

Online Price: $35.99 (List Price: $42.99; Discount: $7 off)

Instacart Price: $41.04 (List Price: $48.04; Discount: $7 off)

Sold for $32.99 at Costco’s warehouse, a pack of Starbucks K-Cups will cost you about $8 more if you shopped with Instacart.

4. Fabuloso Multi-Purpose Lavender Scented Cleaner

In-Store Price: $7.99

Online Price: $9.89

Instacart Price: $7.45 (List Price: $9.45; Discount: $2 off)

Thanks to a special $2 coupon, the Fabuloso ended up being cheaper when purchased on Instacart–compared to both Costco’s in-store and online prices!

5. Kirkland Signature Create-a-Size Premium Paper Towels

In-Store Price: $17.99

Online Price: $21.99

Instacart Price: $22.38

Yet again, shopping in-store is the best option if you want to save money at Costco. For paper towels, you can expect a $4-5 upcharge when choosing Costco delivery or Instacart.

6. Wheat Thins Original 100% Whole Grain Crackers

In-Store Price: $7.99

Online Price: $9.99

Instacart Price: $9.94

Instacart offered us a slightly lower price on Wheat Thins than Costco.com, but Costco’s in-store price was still about $2 less.

7. Barkbone Variety Nylon Chew Toys for Dogs

In-Store Price: $9.79

Online Price: $16.59 (List Price: $21.99; Discount: $5.40 off)

Instacart Price: $12.18 (List Price: $15.38; Discount: $3.20 off)

It’s safe to say that pet products are also cheaper when you shop in-store at Costco. But if you need a delivery service pronto for your pooch, Instacart may be a cheaper option. These dog bones were over $4 less on Instacart than on Costco.com.

8. General Mills Lucky Charms

In-Store Price: $6.99

Online Price: $9.39

Instacart Price: $9.94

Instacart did not save us any money on cereal. Instead, it charged us more!

9. Kirkland Signature Adult Multivitamin Gummies

In-Store Price: $10.99

Online Price: $16.99

Instacart Price: $13.67

Surprisingly, Instacart sells Kirkland Signature multivitamins for less than Costco.com! You could save up to $3 on your gummy vitamins by choosing Instacart–but you could save twice that by taking a trip to your local Costco.

10. Frontline Plus Flea and Tick Dog Treatment

In-Store Price: $77.99

Online Price: $84.99

Instacart Price: $90.99

Instacart doesn’t offer lower prices on all pet products. The Frontline cost about $6 more than Costco.com’s listing and a whopping $13 more than the in-store price.

Is Costco Instacart Cheaper Than Delivery from Costco.com?

So far, it seems like you’ll find competitive prices at Costco.com and Instacart, but the tides will change when we look at the service fees.

ItemCostco.com PriceInstacart PriceSavings
Kirkland Signature Organic Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Beverage$9.99$9.82$0.17 (1.7%)
Tide Advanced Power Ultra Concentrated Liquid Laundry Detergent with Oxi, Original, 81 loads, 150 fl oz$23.99$23.11$0.88 (3.67%)
Starbucks Pike Place Medium Roast K-Cup, 72-count$35.99$41.04$5.05 (12.31%)
Fabuloso Multi-Purpose Cleaner, Lavender, 210 fl oz$9.89$7.45$2.44 (24.67%)
Kirkland Signature Create-a-Size Premium Paper Towels, 2-Ply, 160 Sheets, 12-count$21.99$22.38$0.39 (1.74%)
Wheat Thins 100% Whole Grain Crackers, Original, 40 oz$9.99$9.94$0.05 (0.5%)
Barkbone Variety Nylon Chew Toys, 3-count$16.59$12.18$4.41 (26.58%)
General Mills Lucky Charms, 23 oz, 2-count$9.39$9.94$0.55 (5.53%)
Kirkland Signature Adult Multivitamin, 320 Gummies$16.99$13.67$3.32 (19.54%)
Frontline Plus Flea and Tick Dog Treatment 23-44 lb, 7+1 Doses84.99$90.99$6.00 (6.59%)
Service Fee$0.00$19.24$19.24 (100%)
Optional Driver Tip (15%)$0.00$36.08$36.08 (100%)
Total Cart Price$239.80$295.84$56.04 (18.94%)

Even though Costco.com and Instacart seemed evenly matched during the per-item price comparison, the added fees at checkout tipped the scales dramatically.

Here are our final cart prices after delivery fees: $239 with Costco.com’s 2-day delivery (and longer on some items) and $295 with Instacart’s same-day delivery.

Since we had enough items in our Costco.com cart to qualify for free delivery, there were no added charges when it came time to check out. However, Instacart charged us an enormous service fee of $19.24 – and that’s before the tip.

Although it’s technically optional to leave a tip, Instacart automatically adds on a 15% tip that goes directly to your Instacart shopper and driver. And while you can take this charge away, it’s bad etiquette and hurtful to the person who does your shopping for you.

By the end of this small price comparison, the cheaper option is clear: Costco.com. On just 10 items, we saved a massive $56.

But keep in mind that you could save an extra $38 on top of that (that’s $94 total) by shopping in person at your local Costco warehouse.

Is a $100 charge worth it for same-day delivery through Instacart? In my humble personal opinion, no way.

Major Differences Between In-Person and Online Shopping at Costco

If you’ve read any of our other price comparison articles, you know that price isn’t the only factor to consider–so now let’s break down the key differences between shopping in-store at Costco, shopping online at Costco.com, and getting same-day delivery through Instacart.

Prices

You can expect to pay the least by shopping in-store at a Costco warehouse near you. Shopping online at Costco.com is significantly more expensive, and getting delivery through Instacart is the most expensive option.

Winner: In-store shopping at a Costco warehouse

Delivery Options

When you shop in-store, you’ll have your items on the same day you purchase them, but you have to do the shopping.

Costco delivery only offers 2-day shipping as the fastest option and not all products quality for 2-day delivery. If you don’t spend at least $75, you’ll also be on the hook for delivery fees, which vary per item.

With Instacart, you can receive same-day delivery, and you can even specify when your order will arrive at your doorstep.

Winner: Instacart delivery

Product Availablity

When you shop in-store or use Instacart, you can receive virtually any item you’d like. However, when you shop online at Costco.com you can’t purchase refrigerated or perishable items.

So, if you need to pick up basics like milk, eggs, or produce, you’re out of luck. Costco only offers same-day delivery through Instacart.

Tie: In-store shopping at a Costco warehouse or Instacart delivery

The Costco Shopping Experience

Part of what makes shopping at Costco so much fun is the experience of walking through the warehouse, spotting deals, and enjoying free samples.

When you get delivery, you can enjoy lounging at home and saving time, but you miss out on the Costco experience that makes having a Costco membership so worthwhile.

Winner: In-store shopping at a Costco warehouse

Shopping Without a Costco Membership

When you go to a Costco warehouse, you’ll need a Costco membership to get in, and that costs at least $60 annually.

When you shop online, you can enjoy Costco products you can’t get anywhere else–like their Kirkland Signature brand items–without a membership.

Tie: Online shopping at Costco.com or Instacart delivery

Costco Gas

If you have a Costco membership, one of the biggest perks is discounted gas. However, you can only cash in on cheap Costco gas if you drive to a physical Costco store.

Winner: In-store shopping at a Costco warehouse

FAQs About Costco Online Shopping

Is shopping at Costco.com more expensive than shopping in-store?

Yes. Shopping online at Costco.com is more expensive–but not for the reasons you might think. If your order is over $75, Costco waives 2-day delivery fees for members. However, Costco increases prices on items. Do you want to know how much cheaper it is to shop in-store instead of ordering Costco delivery? Check out our complete Costco price comparison.

How much more expensive is it to get Costco delivered?

In our ultimate price comparison, we discovered that you could save upwards of $100 by taking a trip to your local Costco instead of ordering through Instacart. If you order 2-day delivery online through Costco.com, you can expect an upcharge on every item between 10% and 20%. Learn more about how shopping online and in-store at Costo compare in our ultimate comparison.

Can anyone shop online at Costco.com?

You do not need a membership to shop online at Costco.com – but you may not want to after you read this. Shopping online at Costco.com is significantly more expensive than shopping in-store at a Costco warehouse. Just one or two shopping trips could make it worth it to buy a $60 annual Costco membership. To find out just how much you could save by shopping in-store, read our full Costco price comparison.

How can you see the price of Costco gas before you go?

To see Costco’s gas prices before you leave the house, go online to Costco.com’s store locator. Type in your zip code to see all the local Costco warehouses near you. If you click on any listing with a gas pump icon, you can see the current prices of regular and premium gas.

Key Takeaways from This Costco Price Comparison

Grocery delivery services can make your life more convenient, but they’re not always a deal when it comes to saving money–as this Costco price comparison proves.

If you take anything away from this article, remember that:

  • Costco delivery from Instacart is wildly expensive
  • You can’t get everything you might want through Costco’s 2-day delivery service
  • Non-members can shop online at Costco.com
  • By shopping in-store at Costco, you can save up to 16%, get discounted gas, and free samples

Do you love learning about how prices compare? Be sure to check out all of our price comparison articles, where we do the research to help you save money.

Rebecca Choi is a freelance writer, designer, and contributor to koopy.com from Philadelphia, PA. Armed with her Bachelor's Degree in English and Graphic Design from Arcadia University, she pursues a life of creation and hopes to earn an M.Arch in the near future. Her passions include reading novels, writing poetry, promoting mental health and wellness, and creating functional artwork.

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